Dwayne K. Pickett rejects the parochial attitude that the church's primary role is to convince people to join as a solution to its problems. Pickett, who pastors the New Jerusalem Church, calls for meeting people where they are and stepping out from behind the church's stained glass windows. But in this case, the preacher isn't just talking about preaching to folks.
Pickett spoke at this morning's Friday Forum at Koinoinia Coffee House, in part about the necessity for churches to promote local business and support the public school system.
Take the example of the beleaguered Metrocenter Mall. Jacksonians who need to go to a shopping center have to go to surrounding cities, Pickett said.
"We do the most shopping, and we have to go outside our city to purchase anything," Pickett said.
Pickett's church, which has three locations in Jackson and hosts 3,000 congregants on a given Sunday, put the idea into practice recently when church members cash-mobbed The Penguin restaurant (1100 J R Lynch St., Suite 6A, 769-251-5222). The event resulted in the restaurant's second-highest revenue grossing night ever next to opening day.
Pickett was born in Itta Bena, studied at the University of Southern Mississippi, served in the Army National Guard during Desert Storm, has been a teacher and assistant principal. He jokes that he came into the ministry kicking and screaming.
He took over the church on an interim basis in 1996 and has been there ever since. New Jerusalem was founded in 1923 and hosted a meeting that Medgar Evers attended the night the civil-rights organizer was assassinated.
Even thought the church formerly operated a private Christian school, Pickett called for community members to support Jackson Public Schools and the new Superintendent Dr. Cedrick Gray. He also encouraged community organizations to adopt a JPS classroom and get involved with students in their neighborhoods.
"I can raise my child, but if I ignore my neighbor's child, he's going to corrupt my child or beat him up and take his lunch money," Pickett said.